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Not Long Ago

by Linda Sleszynski, 2022

Not long ago
did I feel the possibility of hope
as Spring I knew was coming
and my dear snow-crusted city
would turn from shadow to light
and gray to blossoms of crocus and narcissus.
The others did not want to hear of my worry
of the madmen
and the threat.
Still I held that silent ache.
It gripped me in its embrace.
Each day would I move my eyes
to circle my apartment,
this symbol of my adulthood.
I scanned my treasures
as well as my necessities.
What to take
if there were no choices?
What could I bear to leave behind?
Always did my gaze fall upon
my most treasured possession;
an antique perfume bottle.
It was my grandmother’s
and my mother’s befor eme.
It had the delicate curves of a woman;
the color of red currants,
and a faint scent
remained inside its depths.
As the threat
and my ache both expanded
each day I added another necessity
to my suitcase:
wool socks, gloves and hat,
two hand-knit sweaters
and thick tights,
some toilet items
and fruits and nuts.
Would I be a coward for leaving?
The others wanted to stay
with their guns
and fight if it was needed.
At the first sign of fire in the sky
I carefully wrapped the perfume bottle
in package paper
and among my woolens
I protected it.
I wrapped myself warmly as I could think
and began the long trek to the border
praying they would not think lower of me
for leaving.